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Bridgeport Hopes to Become State's 1st "Gigabit" City; Looking to Launch High Speed Internet Pilot Program

By Jeff Toquinto on August 20, 2014 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

When it comes to being the first to do something, the City of Bridgeport has shown in the past it’s not afraid to take a chance. Today, however, the city announced that it is embarking on a pilot program on the technological front that could prove groundbreaking to both residents and businesses.
 
City Manager Kim Haws confirmed that a potential pilot program would connect its residents to the Internet at speeds up to 200 times faster than they currently utilize. The program is going to be tested in an area consisting of 100 homes.
 
If the program moves forward and prove successful, it would likely be implemented across the city. Haws said that city officials are excited about the project that connects the homes in question to a high-speed fiber network.
 
“We have to test this to see if there is enough benefit to the community for us to invest in doing this throughout the community,” said Haws. “This pilot program will give us that data.”
 
Haws said he believes it’s the first program of its kind in West Virginia. It would make the city a “Gigabit” city. A gigabit is a term that describes the fast rate of the data being transferred and processed by the newly proposed connection.
 
“We know there are municipalities in other states doing similar things and from our research it’s been successful,” said Haws. “That doesn’t mean it will be successful here. We’re anticipating around a six-month time frame for the program to run that will be followed with an assessment and evaluation for future benefit.”
 
The project still has to be approved by Bridgeport City Council. It’s on Monday’s Bridgeport City Council agenda and will require a $100,000 budget revision to fund the investment. The money will cover material costs, equipment and other items needed to power the system. If Council approves the matter, the City will then send out requests for quotations (RFQs) to get the material and the equipment.
 
“The intent is to be able to help residents and help attract new high tech business opportunities,” said Haws.
 
Haws further elaborated the benefits in a city-issued press release. 
 
“The City of Bridgeport has always been at the forefront of economic development initiatives.  We believe that access to high quality, affordable Internet has become an essential tool for economic development, enabling the city to better recruit businesses and residents to our city,” said Haws. “In addition, it certainly will add to the quality of life of our residents.”
 
Bridgeport is teaming up with Bridgeport-based Citynet. Citynet will operate and maintain the network at no cost to the City.
 
“We applaud the efforts of the City of Bridgeport.  Quality, affordable broadband certainly is a tremendous tool for growing a city in today’s marketplace.  We believe so much in the project we are not only participating by giving the City our services at no cost, but are also prepared to invest capital dollars to help the project succeed. “ said Jim Martin, Citynet President and CEO
 
While the city will utilize 100 homes on the streets of Valley, Vista, Village and parts of Ridgeway Drive, those living there do not have to take part. However, for those looking to take part, residents can sign up for the service in a price range from $5 to $75. City officials said those fees will be used to defray the cost of material and equipment in the pilot project. There was no word on what the costs would be if the pilot program turns into a city-wide program due to the infancy of the process.


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